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Are you and your brand ready to have a voice in sustainability?

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Are you and your brand ready to have a voice in sustainability?


The Australian Federal Government’s 43 percent climate target is set to be enshrined  into law. For consumers and businesses this has been a long time coming. Business leaders and organisations of size and scale have played an active and vocal role in the transition to a more sustainable future. Now, with impending regulation and increased consumer scrutiny, there has never been a more critical time for brands to show up authentically. Is your brand ready to have a voice in sustainability? 

Sefiani’s latest report in the Communications that Matters series, Embedding Sustainability in your narrative: risk, readiness, and opportunity, looks at the opportunities and challenges marketing leaders face when communicating about sustainability. Marketing leaders in Australia want to do more and have a strong voice in sustainability. However, there is a sense of trepidation about how much to say, how far to go, how bold to be. 

The fear factor 

We found that marketers were fearful of saying the wrong thing and negatively  impacting brand reputation. They were challenged with how to navigate risk and  opportunity across a complex and evolving backdrop. The research found that  they were struggling to balance previous brand initiatives with evolving  stakeholder demands. Doing all this while creating a long-term vision for the future. For many marketers this meant they did not proactively communicate about sustainability efforts. They were not able to gain executive support for sustainability-focused campaigns. 

With climate change firmly on the public agenda and ‘climate wars’ over  following the recent federal election, the transition to a more sustainable future is  set to be swift. Brands have an imperative to take authentic action and openly  share their progress. And this story must be delivered with honesty, transparency, accountability and integrity. 

Embedding an authentic narrative  

A brand’s sustainability narrative must be capable of withstanding the scrutiny of all stakeholders: employees, customers, partners, shareholders, government and  the community. It must connect to all parts of the organisation and reflect the  core focus of the brand. Although our research showed that 90 percent believe it is important for brands to have an authentic position on sustainability, 80 percent believed  that most brands did not have such a position.  

So how do you define your authentic sustainability story and embed this into the  brand narrative? It starts with the organisations’ North Star: its purpose. When  purpose and sustainability come together, brands can develop a narrative that  connects tactical initiatives – whether creative marketing campaigns or product  launches – to the overarching business strategy. 

Australian brands such as Woolworths and Four Pillars Gin have embedded  sustainability initiatives into marketing plans. For Woolworths, it’s, To create better experiences together for a better tomorrow”. This connects all initiatives  across all brands, to all stakeholders through the entire business and value chain. 

Employees want to play a bigger role in being a voice in sustainability

The benefits for brands who get this right are significant. With a clear and authentic sustainability narrative, businesses can improve the bottom line.  Greater innovation, better risk management, the increased attraction and loyalty  of conscious customers and reduced business costs all work together to  significantly boost the revenue and success of sustainable companies. 

A company known for its good work in sustainability can be a magnet for talent. But employees don’t just want to work for a sustainable company, they want opportunities to shape the activity and take part in the conversation. Sefiani   research found that 76 percent of employees wish for greater opportunities to  participate in their companies’ sustainability conversations and have meaningful  roles that support the development and delivery of key initiatives – a trend that  will continue as more generations join the workforce. Employees need to be  active participants in the development and delivery of sustainability initiatives. 

When done well, employees are turned into sustainability champions for the  organisation. These employees become the most powerful advocates both inside and outside the business. Building a workforce that is highly engaged and activated in sustainability initiatives is critical to the success and delivery of any sustainability strategy. 

Every business leader has the prerogative to consider what more can be done 

The speed and scale of transition to a more sustainable future will be fuelled by  the actions of our leaders. There is an enormous opportunity for business leaders to drive meaningful, transformative change. But with leadership behaviour so intricately linked to brand value, the stakes are high. 

Leaders must quickly establish their voice in the conversation. They must demonstrate a commitment to change and deliver the brand narrative with  integrity and courage. They must show up consistently and be accountable for  the actions of their business, their people, their partners, and themselves. They  must answer tough questions with honesty and transparency, and drive change  beyond their company footprint. 

As brand marketers, we play a vital role in helping the organisations we work  with successfully create and articulate change. We must also maintain a critical  eye on the strategies, tactics and messaging to ensure there is tangible action  behind the words. 

Connecting purpose to sustainability goals allows brands to create an authentic narrative. It’s from this foundation that transparency, integrity, and leadership can  be established. 

In a world that is quickly tiring of empty promises, it will require a great deal of  action from organisations and their leaders to make tough decisions and  communicate success and failure honestly and openly. It will take courage and  sustained effort. Is your organisation ready?

Mandy Galmes is the managing director, Sefiani Communications Group.


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